Runic sorcery for RuneQuest

From: Peter Maranci (trystro!rune@Think.COM)
Date: Thu 11 Feb 1993 - 03:40:29 EET

                      RUNIC SORCERY FOR RUNEQUEST

			     by Peter Maranci

             An alternate system of Sorcery for RuneQuest

				P A R T  I

[Note: The following is a work in progress. It is by no means a final
draft. I have interspxersed explanatory notes through the text in square brackets where necessary. I have also interspersed some of my own questions. Any comments or suggestions will be gratefully received. I would like to acknowledge the work of Bill Moodey, who came up with some of the original concepts from which this experimental system has been derived. This system uses the skill difficulty classifications from the playtest version of RuneQuest IV. No challenge is intended in this work to any pre-existing copyright or trademark. -->Peter Maranci]


  1. WHAT IS IT?
  4. FORMS
  5. NAMES
        [Sections 8-12 can be found in part 2 -HL]
  1. WHAT IS IT?
    Runic Sorcery is a science of magic, using purely human skills and abilities. It is based on evoking Elements and manipulating them to the Sorcerer's will via knowledge of sorcerous Runes. These Runes correspond with, but are not necessarily identical to the true Runes of Glorantha.

    Spirit Magic depends upon the static, unnatural knowledge of spiritual entities; Divine Magic rests upon the whim of the Gods. Sorcery is the Third Way, using the natural non-personified Runes of Glorantha as a source of power and knowledge. Use of the Runes in this atheistic manner strikes some as being reminiscent of the techniques of the God Learners. Sorcerers laugh at such suggestions -- at least in the West.

    Sorcerers may create magic in either of two different ways. They may use their knowledge of the Runes to create off-the-cuff Castings, also known as Runic 'sentences'. These offer incredible flexibility within those Runes the Sorcerer knows.

    Additionally, a Sorcerer may formalize a Rune sentence as a spell. Such a spell lacks the flexibility of a Casting, but is quicker to cast and easier to master. Spells may be created by the sorcerer or learned directly from another sorcerer or book.

    All Sorcery is based upon a sorcerer's knowledge of Sorcerous Runes. Each Rune is learned as an individual skill; these are usually Hard skills, though some are Very Hard. Initial knowledge of a specific Rune can be acquired as any other skill, through training or research. All Rune skills are at (00) base percentage, with the exception of the Self Rune, which starts at (Age in years x 5%), and can be trained as a Very Hard skill.

    There are six different kinds of Runes: Elements, Shapes, Forms, Names, Conditions, and Powers.

2) ELEMENTS     Every spell *must* include an element -- the Element is what the other Runes in the spell modify. Those which do not include an obvious Element incorporate at least one Intensity of Magic. Element Runes are used to summon elements to be modified by other Runes.

    In the West, the commonly recognized physical Elements are Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. All of these are Hard skills. Some have suggested that Light might correspond to the Lunar Rune of the Red Empire, which also glows without burning. This theory is generally debunked by most Adepts. The common belief is that the Lunar Rune is actually more closely related to the Disorder Rune.

    There is also one non-physical Element: Magic. This is raw magical energy, used in Spells and Castings which do not incorporate a mundane element. The Magic Rune is Very Hard to learn, since it cannot normally be seen, smelled, touched, or otherwise experienced in an unmodified form.

    The Element Runes are used to create or summon an amount of the raw element. Each magic point expended creates one cubic meter of an insubstantial element, or one kilogram of a solid one. If the element is already present, twice as much of the material may be controlled per magic point. The maximum number of magic points which may be used to create or control an element is the Rune skill divided by ten.

[Note: I considered 5% rather than 10% -- it seemed to fit in better
with the basic mechanics of RuneQuest -- but it simply made Sorcerers too powerful.]

    If a Sorcerer attempts to control (via Spell or Casting) a volume of Element already under the control of another Sorcerer, an MP vs. MP roll determines the victor. If the victor's magic is Active, he must make a concentration roll to continue control. The loser's magic is terminated.

    Greater amounts of material may be created/controlled by incorporating the Rune in question more than once. However, the magic point cost per point is increased by one for each re-use of the Rune. For example, with a skill of 50% in the Fire Rune 5 Intensities of Fire may be summoned, with a damage potential of 5D3. This would cost 5 magic points, before costs for Shape, Movement, and any other modifications. If the Fire Rune was used twice, however, up to 10 intensities of Fire could be created. Each of the first 5 points would cost one magic point each; each point from 6 to 10 would cost 2 magic points apiece. Therefore, eight Intensities of Fire would cost a Sorcerer with a Fire Rune skill of 50% 11 magic points to summon: five times one (5) plus three times two (6). The same Intensity of Fire would cost a Sorcerer with a Fire Rune skill of 80% merely 8 magic points to summon (8 x 1 = 8), and would cost a Sorcerer with a Fire Rune skill of 10% 36 magic points! (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8). Each time the Rune is re-used counts as a separate Rune, with a -10% penalty to skill for each use (see Section 8: CASTINGS). Obviously the chance of success in the last case would be virtually nil.

    If the Fire Rune were incorporated three times by a Sorcerer with a Fire Rune skill between 45% and 54%, the first five points would cost one MP apiece, the second five points would cost two MP apiece, and the third five points would cost three MP apiece. A maximum strength triple-Fire summoning with a skill of 50% would therefore cost 30 MP before any additional modifications. It would produce 15 Intensities of Fire.

    Different Elements have different effects. Armor subtracts from all attacks using the physical Elements; since such Elements still have a physical manifestation, however, they still do half damage even if the caster fails to overcome the target's current Magic Points. The Magic Element ignores armor, but has no effect upon the target if resisted.

When used for attack:

    Fire is the most destructive Element. Each Intensity of Fire causes 1D3 damage to a target. This damage is absorbed by armor. Fire, however, causes no extra damage for a Special result.

    Earth causes 1D2 damage per Intensity. Unlike Fire, Earth can Crush on a Special result. Stone may be summoned using the Earth Rune, at a cost of two magic points per kilogram. Depending on its shape, Stone may Crush or Impale.

[Note: Is it necessary to differentiate Earth and Stone at all? Should
Earth do less damage?]

    Water causes 1 point of damage per Intensity. It is also more likely to knock down a target. When striking an object, each point of Water counts double for Knockdown purposes. Water Slashes on a Special success.

    Air, Light, and Darkness each cause 1 point of damage per 2 points of Intensity. They have no additional effect on a Special success. They may have special effects on some creatures, however. Light, for example, may blind a target, and in addition would do extra damage to Shades. It would also be especially demoralizing to Darkness-dwelling creatures such as Trolls.

    Magic causes 1 point of damage per Intensity. It has no additional effect for a Special success. However, only one point of magic is usually necessary for a spell affecting the target's mind. More magic would have a proportionately greater effect. One point of magic combined with the Disorder Rune in a spell intended to confuse, for example, could cause -5% to all skill chances. Two points would have a -10% effect.

    Metals can be summoned by using a second Element with the Earth Rune. Bronze, for example, is summoned through the combination of Earth and Air, and costs two magic points per Intensity, rather than one. The volume summoned is also less than that of a pure Element: one gram per Intensity.

    The various Elements have other properties deriving logically from their natures. Fire, for example, would offer little protection against most physical attacks, but would damage those things passing through it. Earth (or Stone) would generally be the most protective. Water would be most effective against Fire. Air would be useful to breathe. Light would discomfort Trollkin.

[Note: The possibilities are so widespread that it is probably
impossible to detail every case; the most that could be done would be to write a broad set of guidelines, and let the GM extrapolate. All amounts, incidentally, are adjustable. I've chosen the cubic meter/kilogram standard because that's what is in the description of the RQ3 Sorcery Form/Set (substance) spell. This may not be an ideal figure.]

3) SHAPES     Shapes are perhaps self-explanatory: they represent geometrical ideals, and are commonly used to shape elements. There are, therefore, as many possible Shape Runes are there are shapes. However, some are more common than others. The simplest Shapes are Bolts, Spheres, and Walls. Bolts are usually used to fire an Element toward a target, intersecting a single hit location. This is an Easy skill. Spheres are used to shape an Element into a large sphere, possibly encompassing a large area indeed. The Sphere Rune skill is a skill of Medium difficulty, as are the Rod and Spike Shapes. Walls are, again, self- evident; the complexity of the Wall Shape makes it a Hard skill to learn. Cones, solid Cubes, and solid Cylinders are also Hard. Hollow Spheres, Cylinders, Cubes, and other hollow forms are Very Hard, as are some irregular and multi-sided Shapes. More complex shapes can also be created by combining less complex Shape Runes.

    If no shape is used in a Spell, the element summoned has no cohesion once the active portion of the spell is finished, and will behave normally. Water flung at a target will simply fall to the ground, doing little if any damage. Fire will disperse, unless there is fuel to sustain it. Light and Dark will be absorbed by the ambient environment, etc. The exception to this is Magic, which if directed towards a living target will conform to the target's shape -- unless the target has successfully resisted the Spell.

    Size and Shapes: A Shape may be any size the caster desires. However, the larger the Shape the more dilute the Element becomes. Logic applies. One Intensity of Fire does 1D3 damage, and covers 1 cubic meter. If spread over an area equal to 2 cubic meters, it will do half as much damage. If spread over an area equal to more than 3 cubic meters, it will do no damage at all. If covering an area greater than 6 cubic meters, it will no longer be visible.

4) FORMS     The Forms are as those listed in the RQ2 book: Plant, Beast, Man, Dragonewt, Spirit, and Chaos (the last not being generally available). Other Forms almost certainly exist. In addition there is a generic Target Rune. Forms are generally used to target magic against creatures which can resist it. The various Forms are Hard skills. with the exception of the Sorcerer's own species Rune(s), which is/are Easy to learn. The basic Target Rune (Very Hard) simply allows the Casting to reach a specific point in coherent form. The caster must roll separately against his Target Rune skill. If species-appropriate Runes are used instead (Man for men and women, Dark and Man for Trolls, Plant and Man for Elves, etc.) then the Casting will automatically strike the intended target. A spell cast at a target other than the spell's incorporated Target Rune will have no effect.

[Note: I'm not at all sure that the Target Runes are a good idea. The
concept seems sound, but the division of the Runes seems to have a certain unfairness built in. For example, magic cast against Trolls would be harder than against humans, since they'd involve an extra Rune. Alternatively, a set of Species Runes could be considered as one. It would be necessary to know both Dark and Man to specifically target Trolls, but there would only be a -10% penalty for the two Runes, rather than -20%. However this may be over-complicated, though it does not seem unreasonable that Sorcery should be the most complex thing in RuneQuest. A third possibility: the use of *any* Rune appropriate to the Target's species will enable the spell to be effective.]

5) NAMES     Names are actually refinements of Form Runes; they are the true name of a specific creature. They can be learned only with the greatest difficulty, if at all -- long and intimate association with the creature in question would be necessary. A spell or Casting created with the true Name of the Target cannot be resisted, though protective magic will work.

    Every Sorcerer knows his own true Name, the Self Rune, at a percentage equal to [(his age in years x 5%) + magic bonus]. It can be trained as a Very Hard skill.

    A Sorcerer may substitute his or her personal Name in any spell including his or her Species Rune(s), without penalty or effort.

6) CONDITIONS     Condition Runes are usually used to modify magic. When embedded in a Spell, they allow a greater degree of flexibility. The most commonly used Condition Runes in Sorcery are Duration and Range. All are Very Hard. Mastery, Magic, and Infinity are rarely if ever used as such. The theoretical differences between Magic as an Element and as a Condition have occupied thousands of pages in obscure Western philosophies.

    At least one magic point must be expended in the Duration Rune, or else the Spell or Casting will be instant. At least one magic point must be used in the Range Rune, or else the range will be touch only.

[Note: The manipulation Runes can be used to duplicate any form of
RuneQuest sorcery desired. All that is necessary is to set an appropriate minimum effect. For example: every ten percent skill in the Duration Rune allows one point of added Intensity. This could be used to duplicate the Intensity skill in either RQ3 Sorcery or the version currently being playtested for RQ4.]

7) POWERS     Harmony, Disorder, Fertility, Death, Stasis, Movement, Truth, Illusion, Luck, Fate, and possibly others.

    Movement is useful in two ways. It can be used to allow free change of the shape of a spell or Element, being particularly useful for Illusions in such regard. However, if there is no Shape Rune included in the magic, the use of the Movement Rune will only allow the Element to hold together for as long as the mage concentrates upon it. Example: Movement + Light + Range + Duration would create a form of Light that the caster can shape as he wishes, changing from moment to moment for as long as he concentrates.

    Movement may also be used to move a magical effect in different directions after being cast. Each magic point expended for movement in this way allows the magic to be moved at a rate of one meter per Strike Rank. Example: Light + Sphere + Range + Movement + Duration allows the caster to create a sphere of light that may be moved from place to place.

    The Movement Rune could be used for both purposes, but in that case would have to be used twice, with a second -10% penalty to skill in the case of a Casting.

[These would be the most fluid Runes. Harmony + Magic + Man, for
example, could heal, cause sleep, or calm a target -- and other interpretations are imaginable. The players' and GMs imaginations would be the defining factors.]

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